Dear Barry,

Construction was just completed on our new home, but the building official would not approve the final inspection. He says an as-built permit is now needed before major corrective work can be done. The builder, we have now learned, failed to follow the plans that were engineered and approved by the county building department. He contends that he is only required to comply with the building code, not the specific standards determined by the engineer and the county. Is there any validity to his position? –Lauren

Dear Lauren,

Your builder is completely out of step with the realities of building-code enforcement. There is an established hierarchy in the determination of construction standards, and building officials are the pinnacle of that pecking order. As the final arbiters of construction adequacy, theirs is the first and last word in the administration of building requirements. What they say goes.

The building code, on the other hand, is merely a “minimum standard” and defines itself as such in chapter one of the codebook. When the building official approves a set of plans and the engineering specifications contained therein, that is the standard to which the structure must be built. Your builder has set himself above the law and needs to be brought back down to ground level. If he won’t comply with mandates set forth by the building official, a complaint should be filed with the state agency that licenses contractors. Hopefully, you haven’t paid the final installment for the construction.

Dear Barry,

I was sitting in my family room, when the inside pane in my sliding glass door suddenly shattered with a loud bang. At first, I thought it had been struck from the outside, but the screen door was undamaged, and the outside pane was still intact. The two-year builder’s warranty on the home just expired last month. Do I have recourse with the builder or the glass-door manufacturer? –Lowell

Dear Lowell,

Door glazing consists of tempered safety glass. Tempered glass is produced by subjecting plate glass to a specialized heating process. This causes the glass to shatter into time square-edged bits in the event of an accident, such as when someone walks through a glass door. Glass that is not tempered breaks into large pieces that are sharp and pointed and can cause serious injury. The disadvantage of tempered glass is that any slight scratch, crack or even stress along an edge can cause the pane to literally explode at an unexpected moment. Such occurrences are rare but can be unsettling to those who might be nearby. A worst-case scenario would involve glass particles in someone’s eyes.

In my own home, a shower door once shattered in the middle of the night, spewing glass particles across the bathroom. Fortunately, no one was in the room at the time.

Whether the manufacturer or builder will take responsibility in the aftermath of your warranty period is uncertain. It they do, it should be accepted as an expression of good will, rather than an obligation.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at

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